Photo provided by the Empowerment Club
“The way I was raised was to be connected with nature and I didn’t see that as much when I moved to Downers Grove,” Empowerment Club Sustainability Committee Leader Annelise Richardson said. Originally from rural Massachusetts, Richardson hopes that work through the club will invite others to a deeper connection with nature and a more eco-friendly lifestyle.
This committee is a facet of the Empowerment Club’s outreach helping students to advocate for their beliefs and to take action to create change. Richardson has taken it upon herself to offer a variety of opportunities to help students get involved in aiding the community and to participate in the discussion about how to fight the climate crisis.
The group aims to create a culture at DGN that holds our environment as a priority. Social studies teacher and Empowerment Club sponsor Karen Spahr-Thomas shares this ideology.
“It is important for the DGN community to become involved in sustainability because we want to leave the environment in a better state for future generations to enjoy. Taking even small steps, such as recycling, cleaning up parks and commuting in energy-efficient modes of transportation, goes a long way in improving the environment,” Spahr-Thomas said.
The sustainability committee is doing just that. In October, a group of members helped clean up the Belmont Prairie Nature Preserve. Working with the Downers Grove Park District, the team of six committee members cut down shrubs that were endangering the health of the prairie. One of the attendees, senior Tara Liszka, explains why she volunteered.
“I’m very passionate about trying to keep the Earth from going down the wrong path due to climate change, so when I heard we were doing this project, I jumped right in,” Liszka said.
Hands-on work is not the only way the group is approaching the climate crisis. Ebi Hadi attended a virtual film festival promoted by the committee about fast fashion. She describes what she learned from the documentary and panel she watched.
“At the end, I was able to listen to the discussions of the panelists, who all have jobs in environmentalism. I remember one of them started a reliable and local plastic recycling business. It was cool to hear their thoughts on the video, and they all agreed that fashion waste is a much bigger problem than it’s made out to be,” Hadi said.
Empowerment Club leader, Gwen Casten, made sustainability one of the committees within the club because she believes that it represents what the club is fighting for.
“Sustainability is one of our committees because caring for the earth is very important to the club. Our environment is in grave danger and will continue to decline if something is not done,” Casten said. “This group gives students the opportunity to come up with ideas and participate in activities to help the environment.”
Richardson acknowledges that sustaining an environmentally-minded lifestyle is not always easy, but she believes participating in a group like this can help.
“It can be very isolating to feel like you are the only person who cares about what you’re doing. I think talking to people who share the same values is really important to staying on the track to continue upholding a sustainable life,” Richardson said.
The sustainability committee is far from done with their efforts within our community. Richardson has set plans for a discussion in collaboration with the Equality committee of Empowerment Club, another clean-up at Belmont prairie, and a focus on community involvement. To stay up to date on upcoming events, visit the Empowerment Club’s website.